Harlow Council highly praised in independent report
News / Tue 2nd Jan 2024 at 09:46am
HARLOW Council has been praised in an independent report for the rapid progress it has made in the last nine months to improve its political and managerial leadership, its relationships, what it delivers for residents and how it operates.
The report by the Local Government Association follows a recent progress review by an independent peer review team who carried out a corporate peer challenge assessment of the council back in March 2023. Peer review teams are made up of senior managers and councillors from other councils.The report from the visit made at the end of November can be viewed on the council’s website: https://www.harlow.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/LGA%20Corporate%20Peer%20Challenge%20progress%20report.pdf
The report recognises that the council has moved a long way in short space of time, and it makes the following statements:
“Nine months on from the corporate peer challenge, it is clear that there has been profound change achieved in many aspects of how the council operates and what it is delivering.”
“In a council where, tangible progress can so clearly be seen and so much is being achieved, it is important to celebrate the successes more.”
“The Council has invested time and effort in establishing a range of building blocks that are key to the way it operates going forward.”
“The urgent requirement to re-set relationships across the political and managerial leadership of the council has been responded to very positively by all concerned.”
“One of these (key principles) is decision-making in the council being evidence-based, along with a clear outlining of available options. Another, which links strongly to evidence-based decision-making, is being able to compare Harlow with elsewhere – centred upon benchmarking.”
“The five priorities for this year which emerged from the session (a meeting in early June between the new Leader, cabinet and senior managers) are clearly driving the organisation.”
“What is being delivered is making a tangible difference for residents.”
“Major progress has been made in the tackling by HTS of the backlog in housing repairs.”
The report shows that there is clear evidence that the council has delivered against each of the recommendations from earlier in the year, in particular:
Better working relationships across the council, particularly between councillors and staff
Decision-making is becoming more evidence based including carrying out an annual residents’ survey
There is substantial progress with the delivery of the council’s maintenance company HTS and partnership working
Better engagement with external partners
Councillor Dan Swords, Leader of Harlow Council, has described the progress seen by the review team as remarkable, he said:
“When I was elected leader of the council in May I was determined to bring about positive change to how the council serves its residents and partners and how it operates for its staff. When the original review report was published back in March, it laid down bare the challenges ahead and what needed to be done.
“The progress that the review team has witnessed in just 6 months is remarkable and it is all be down to teamwork and the incredible efforts of council staff and councillors. I know that there is much more work to do, and the latest report gives as a clear direction on what we need to do next. Everyone in Harlow Council should be extremely proud of the progress we have made.
“We are all working hard together to build solid foundations for the future so that we can continue this great progress.”
Andrew Bramidge, Harlow Council’s Chief Executive, who took up his role just one year ago, said:
“Undertaking this external challenge has been extremely important in changing the way the council works and what it does. When I started my role as Chief Executive a year ago, I recognised that we needed to look outside the organisation, not just internally, so that we are always considering the needs and priorities of our residents and working with our partners. I also wanted to do more to empower more people across the organisation and the report recognises that we are making more progress on this.
“Thanks to the peer review team and the work of council staff and councillors we have changed and improved how the council works, not just inside the council, but how we work with residents and our partners. We have made excellent progress, but the hard work will never stop.”
The report also identifies specific areas of focus that they recommend the council delivers over the next six months, which include:
Deliver the senior management restructure
Produce a delivery plan for 2024 to 2025 that will underpin the longer-term Corporate Plan that has now been approved
Develop a ‘place narrative’ (i.e. the Harlow growth story) and create an investment prospectus for the town
Have a clear position on the Garden Town development, based on evidence, that embraces the opportunity
The evidence is that the River Stort Valley ecology will be decimated, the town will be subject to increased flooding and sewage discharges, gridlock will happen on the east of the town because of poor transport plans, air pollution will increase and the town will be overloaded by East Herts and Epping Council housing developments, new housing in the town is being bought up by London Boroughs dumping people here: the quality of life here is being downgraded, if the economic costs are factored in the town is definitely in deficit. The peer review doesn't take any of these factors into account.
Depends what they mean by 'Independent?' The review panel is made up of managers and councillors from other councils. We'd need to know their political leanings to judge how unbiased they were likely to be.
Suspicions are aroused by the words 'Highly praised'. I doubt there's many in harlow would say they've seen 'any' improvement in the town let alone some amazing makeover. There's an election on the horizon and I would suggest this report is more about that, than the actual reality of the situation.
What have you actually done for the people of Harlow Dan swords.?? We have seen a lot of knocking down, but nothing put in its place yet.. We have seen new buildings being sold to developers, signed and sealed , WITH OUT SECURITY THAT IT WOULD GO TO THE PEOPLE OF HARLOW. I've had to put my own toilet system in, because Harlow council cut corners.. you can praise your self as much as you like, but we are not seeing any thing differently, than when labour was in. Oh a few new council houses, up against thousands and thousands of unaffordable houses estate s. We have seen other council s, getting the better of you ,because you won't stand up for this town.
Oh and let's not forget that you signed and sealed the destruction of our river stort valley. Ignored 7000 signature s.
I'd love to say the town is looking better and a job well done, but I can't. Is this praise based on self reported successes ? It definitely can't be based on a visit to see actual outcomes. This is an insult to people living in Harlow
This is typical government self congratulation. Look at the town, county, country nothing has got better in the last 40 years it is just managed decline while the connected of all parties senior public sector and large corporations loot the economy and people of this country.
Today I removed another 26 pieces of redundant street materials making 78 in two days. I walk the streets and don't drive the roads. At street level as elsewhere there is much to do.
The comments already made on these pages make it clear that the Peer review did not ask us the general public what they thought of the last nine months.
The review makes clear "substantial progress with the delivery of the council’s maintenance company HTS and partnership working". The Labour Party left HTS limping along with paper-based systems. The Peer Challenge Review highlighted the need for database driven management information systems. The local Conservatives are dragging HTS into the 21st century.
"Praise" another word Dan Swords like to put out there about himself along with he's so called priorities list!!! All this self achievements etc are all WORDS but definitely NO ACTION. Action of that this town needs. No matter what's printed of what he's done or doing it's all a load of rubbish. This town has not changed it's going in the gutter & Mr Dan Swords is not meeting all he says he does. The roads the paths the maintenance of cutting hedges keeping things looking nice, all the crime, town centre & all around is dangerous, bringing other people into the town taking our housing, people loosing their homes their bussinesses etc. There is nothing right in this town & Mr Dan Swords is neither capable wise enough old enough to deal with all of this. As said before he's not long out of school so how can he have the knowledge of knowing Harlow as much as the residents here have. Maybe just maybe they should all be listening to the residents of Harlow instead of ignoring us. Then this town could be pulled together but right now most of it is a complete mess. Years ago it really looked lush, nice open spaces well looked after , a nice little town & market to go shopping meet people. Now it's being built up too much & just a complete utter mess a dangerous place to be & no control in this town of anything.
To all the doubters and cynics commenting this article: Alex, Kim O'Connor, Adam and JR, you all weren't so idle and actually clicked on the link and read the report, you would learned that the LGA is a fully independent body and the areas it reviewed to make its judgment. In future, please read before making banal comments and looking justifiably stupid.